Volume 44 - Article 38 | Pages 899–940  

The social context of retrospective-prospective changes in pregnancy desire during the transition to adulthood: The role of fathers and intimate relationships

By Jennifer Barber, Heather Gatny


Background: Researchers have questioned the accuracy of retrospective measures of unintended pregnancy, which ask women whether they wanted a pregnancy before it was conceived.

Objective: We investigated whether pregnant women's retrospective recollections of their pre-conception desires for pregnancy were shaped by intimate relationships, their own reactions, and their perceptions of their partners' reactions to their pregnancies.

Methods: We used the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life (RDSL) study, which included weekly survey interviews with 971 young women, of whom 175 experienced 203 pregnancies during the 2.5-year study period. We estimated logistic regression models of whether women’s retrospective recollections of their pre-conception desires were stable, shifted positive, or shifted negative compared to their prospectively reported desires, along with formal mediation tests of potential mechanisms.

Results: Women were more likely to remember their undesired pregnancies as desired before conception if they themselves reacted happily to the pregnancy, they were married or engaged, or they perceived their partner as reacting positively. The association with perceiving her partner as positive was mediated by her own happiness about the pregnancy.

Conclusions: Retrospective recollections of pre-conception desire at least partially represent women's current feelings about a pregnancy. Post-conception happiness about a pregnancy may identify mothers and children whose health and well-being are at risk, but prospective measures are necessary to evaluate whether women got what they wanted.

Contribution: This paper directly demonstrates that a woman's feelings about a specific pregnancy change over time alongside her experiences with the father of her pregnancy after conception.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Pregnancy scares and subsequent unintended pregnancy
Volume 31 - Article 40

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